In anticipation of his new movie “To Rome With Love” the Wall Street Journal published a great interview with director Woody Allen. I’ve lifted a few interesting nuggets of wisdom that give insight into the man who has made 45 feature films in a row.
His position on his audience and their opinion of his work.
“It’s definitely better if people like it. If you asked me my druthers, I’d much prefer for people to like the film than not to like it. But I’d never do anything to bring about that effect. I want to make the film I want to make, and if they don’t like it—and I know this sounds terrible—it’s too bad. I much prefer that they liked it. When “Midnight in Paris” was so successful, it was delightful. It was great. But if they didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have changed a thing to curry favor, or get them to like it, or do the kind of thing that I anticipate they might like and give them that. That would not interest me.”
I’ve written about this attitude before in “The Reward Is In The Work”, and think it’s highly commendable. Appreciating your audience is key, but creating your art with your audience at the forefront of your mind all the time is dangerous. That’s when you start trying to please everyone else, and more than likely come out with compromised art. Audiences know exactly how to sniff out that kind of stuff, and it will backfire in the end.
On how his original motivation keeps him from over-working himself:
“It’s a reasonable workday. If there’s a crisis and we’ve got to get out of a location and we can’t get it anymore, I will work late. But I don’t know if I am the most dedicated artist in the world. When I first started making movies, everything was sacrificed for the movie. And then I thought, “Wait a minute, I went into this business not to kill myself but because it’s fun to make movies, and if I’m not going to enjoy myself I am not going to do it.”
While being an artist is actually still a job, you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that it’s a very fortunate position to be in. If you’re no longer having fun, your art will suffer and you’ll probably start acting like an entitled brat when the pressure starts getting to you.
On being prolific, versus delivering master pieces.
“I am prolific but there is nothing special about being prolific. It’s not in the quantity. There’s no medal for quantity. It’s the quality. It’s better to do two or three movies in your lifetime that are masterpieces than close to 45 movies without a masterpiece.”